KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s offer of a cease-fire was rejected by pro-Russia gunmen on Wednesday as a top United Nations official warned that the separatists were leading their followers down a “dead end.”

In a report by the international monitoring mission deployed by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the world body said killings, abductions and torture have escalated so intensively in the separatist-controlled areas that people were too frightened to leave their homes.

The report by the 34-member team in Ukraine since March prompted U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay to urge the separatist gunmen to “stop taking themselves, and the people living in their regions, down this dead end, which is leading simply to misery, destruction, displacement and economic deprivation.”

“All they have achieved is a climate of insecurity and fear which is having a hugely detrimental impact on many thousands of people,” Pillay said, pointing to the team’s calculation that 356 people died in the separatist-held areas between May 7 and June 7.

There have been more than 200 incidents of torture alleged by those detained in the rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the U.N. report said. The monitors were alluding to those captured and detained by the pro-Russia militants in control of at least a dozen towns and cities as well as by Ukrainian nationalists drawn to the region to retaliate against the fighters.

Pillay said that more than 34,000 people have been displaced by the fighting and that thousands more want to leave eastern Ukraine but fear it is unsafe to move from their homes.


In Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where the president addressed graduates of the national military academy, Poroshenko said he had proposed a unilateral cease-fire to give the separatists a chance to lay down their arms in exchange for amnesty.

His proposal was immediately rejected by one of the top leaders of the rebellion.

“He offers to cease fire so that we would lay down arms and his troops could get at us without a shot fired,” Denis Pushilin, leader of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, said in a phone interview. “We could talk peace with the Kiev junta only on condition that their troops and hardware leave the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”

The talks would be aimed at arranging an exchange of prisoners and gaining recognition by Kiev authorities of the proclaimed independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Pushilin said, vowing that the occupied territory “will never again be part of Ukraine.”

Separatist gunmen began descending on local government buildings, armories and police stations in March, after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine’s Crimea area and later annexed the region. The Moscow-allied gunmen have proclaimed the Donetsk and Luhansk regions independent and have asked to join their territory to Russia, though Putin hasn’t acknowledged those appeals.

Under the pressure of Western sanctions and threats of more withering measures to come, Putin has backed off open support for the rebels while maintaining a massive troop presence on Russia’s border with Ukraine. Russian volunteers and mercenaries have flooded into Donetsk and Luhansk to take up arms with their separatist allies and funneled in weapons, including armored personnel carriers and Russian T-64 tanks.

Ukrainian military forces have been waging an ineffectual “anti-terrorist operation” aimed at recovering control of the occupied regions, which the Defense Ministry in Kiev says has cost at least 147 soldiers their lives. At least as many gunmen fighting against the Ukrainian government have died since the operation was launched in early April.

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